Ulster SFC Preliminary Round:
Fermanagh 1-12 Antrim 0-9
Fermanagh coasted to a third championship victory over Antrim in two seasons in a low-key Ulster championship preliminary round tie in Brewster Park.
The quality of Tomás Corrigan’s score-taking was the obviously highlight of a disappointing game in front of 9,124 in Enniskillen, the diminutive forward kicking 0-9 to set up a first round clash with Donegal on June 12.
Antrim’s best spell of the game was at the end and they kicked five unanswered points in a 12-minute spell to close the deficit to three points, but Sean Quigley’s late goal sealed a comfortable win for Pete McGrath’s side.
Antrim were expected to put up a strong challenge to Fermanagh with Kevin Niblock, Brian ‘Bam’ Neeson, Tomás and Michael McCann all back in the team after oping out in 2015. But they were outclassed from the first whistle and could not penetrate Fermanagh’s well-drilled defensive screen.
Tomás Corrigan kicked 0-6 in the first 35 minutes, opening the scoring with a second minute free. Attacking wing-back Declan McCusker then burst forward but with the goal at his mercy, kicked the ball over the bar. Corrigan stretched the lead to three points with another free after six minutes and it already looked ominous for Antrim.
Tomás McCann failed to break Antrim’s duck when he kicked a scoreable free wide a few minutes later and Corrigan piled on the pressure, with another free and his first from play off his left foot. Aidan Breen scored a brilliant point to make it 0-6 to 0-0 after 21 minutes.
Antrim’s leaders combined to set up a goal chance for Bam Neeson. Niblock took a superb catch and passed to Michael McCann whose precision pass found Neeson inside. He fired a left-footed shot towards the corner but Chris Snow brilliantly tipped the ball around his left post. Neeson converted the ’45’ to get Antrim on the board in the 23rd minute, trailing 0-6 to 0-1.
Fermanagh converted three quality dead balls before half time to put the game out of sight. First Sean Quigley nailed a 55m free before Tomas Corrigan deftly sliced a 14m sideline ball over the bar with his right foot. It was the type of cheeky score only a confident player could convert – and just to prove it was no fluke he nailed a second one from almost an identical position a minute later.
Neeson’s close-range free left it 0-9 to 0-2 in Fermanagh’s favour at the break, leaving Antrim with a mountain to climb. In the Ulster championship first round two years ago, they led Fermanagh by 1-10 to 0-2 in Brewster Park after half an hour but were almost caught on the line after a gutsy Erne comeback.
They needed to produce similar heroics if they were going to get back into a flat game that lacked intensity or atmosphere until late on. There was no score of any kind for 12 long minutes at the start of the second half until Tomas McCann scored Antrim’s first point from play.
On-fire Corrigan responded immediately with a point from a tight angle and tagged on another free to stretch the home side’s lead to 0-11 to 0-3 after 51 minutes. Antrim made a few switches and had their best spell of the game in the last quarter, subs Ryan Murray and Sean Burke among the scorers as they hit five points in a row in a 12-minute spell.
Having worked so hard to close the gap to three points however, a lazy tackle by Sean McVeigh on Eoin Donnelly allowed Tomas Corrigan to score Fermanagh’s first point in 15 minutes. Sean Quigley settled Fermanagh’s nerves with a 69th minute goal.
McCusker brothers Declan and Paul combined with Ciaran Flaherty and Tomas Corrigan to tee him up, and his cool low finish across goal clinched Fermanagh’s place in the first round against Donegal in Ballybofey next month.
Scorers for Fermanagh: T Corrigan 0-9 (5f), S Quigley 1-1 (f), D McCusker, A Breen 0-1 each
Scorers for Antrim: T McCann 0-3 (1f), B Neeson 0-2 (1f), M Sweeney 0-1, J Carron 0-1, R Murray 0-1, S Burke 0-1
FERMANAGH: C Snow; M Jones, C Cullen, M O’Brien; D McCusker, J McMahon, B Mulrone; E Donnelly, A Breen; P McCusker, R Jones, R Lyons; R Corrigan, S Quigley, T Corrigan.
Subs: C Flaherty for Lyons (46), D Teague for R Corrigan (56), D Kelly for Breen (67), P Cadden for P McCusker (70).
ANTRIM: C Kerr; K O’Boyle; R Johnston, N Delargy; P McBride, M Johnston, J Laverty; J Carron, M McCann; M Fitzpatrick, K Niblock, M Sweeney; B Neeson, C Murray, T McCann.
Subs: S McVeigh for Murray (HT), D McAleese for Laverty (47), R Murray for Fitzpatrick (56), S Burke for Neeson (59).
REFEREE: Sean Hurson (Tyrone)
Report: Orla Bannon.